A very modern kind of heist movie

FILM
THE BLING RING
Cert 15 | By Alex Dymoke
Three Stars

THE tables have turned for the real life celebrity obsessed group of Californian teenagers who made headlines in 2010 after burgling a string of A-listers. Once they swanned around in the pilfered clothes of the stars they adored. Now they can watch as the likes of Emma Watson and Taissa Farmiga step into their shoes.

Emma Watson dominates The Bling Ring’s promotional material but her character, Nicki Moore, is more comic foil than protagonist. Moore (based on Alexis Neiers) is a mini-Paris Hilton with extra angst, whose celebrity obsession inadvertently media-trains her for when she gets caught. In front of the cameras she wells up, full of candy-sweet repentance.

Among her peers she hides behind her Blackberry screen, only looking up to fire darts of hormonal disdain. She rolls her eyes, delivers withering “whatever”s and grimaces at the sartorial choices of her friends. It’s almost a scene-stealing performance – Hogwarts is a distant memory – but she just overcooks it at the end, lapsing into a too-easy LA parody.

It’s shocking how easily the group break into the houses (the keys to Paris Hilton’s mansion are found lying under her mat), and there’s a powerful contrast between the ecstatic fandom of the teenagers and the carelessness of the celebrities they steal from. Inside, the homes are oppressively cluttered with highly valuable yet unvalued things. The teenagers’ react as anyone would (“oh my god!” “awesome!” “come and look at these!”) as they stumble across rooms overflowing with Louboutins and diamond necklaces.

Like Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, The Bling Ring features many slow-mo scenes of kids taking drugs and dancing against a backdrop of dreamy blissed-out music. Also similar to Spring Breakers is the non-committal stance of the filmmaker: the camera doesn’t judge – it gawps. Sofia Coppola luxuriates in the behaviour of these young people, but she fails to delve into the motivations.

Like Korine, her fascination with the current generation of adolescents seems to be purely aesthetic. Fair enough perhaps, but if you make a film about celebrity culture and at the same time decline to comment on it, then you risk producing something that mirrors that culture. This is the case with The Bling Ring. It’s fun and superficial – good looking, but ultimately lacking in value.

FILM
THE INTERNSHIP
Cert 12a | By Alex Dymoke
One Star

WOULD you pay £12 to watch a two hour advert for Google? If the answer is yes, then quick! Get on that phone and book a ticket for the The Internship. Actually, if the US is anything to go by, you won’t have to be that quick. The film bombed in the states – and good riddance.

There’s much about Google that’s ripe for satire: unnerving techno-utopianism, affectedly kooky offices, geeky staff. You wait the whole film for a satirical pot-shot to be fired, for it to mock the Google propaganda machine... And then you realise The Internship is itself propaganda, a nauseating curtsey before the king of silicon valley.

Vince Vaughan and Owen Wilson play two washed up old buddies who manage to bag one of the world’s most coveted internships. Arriving at the office in California, they wander around the Googleplex, staring in mindless reverence at the slides and bean-bags. With his shaggy blonde hair and dry pursed lips Owen Wilson looks like the exhumed corpse of a mid-nineties boy-band member

Forget Wedding Crashers, this is like watching a stag-do, complete with all the laddishness and “mate you’re a total ledge” back-slappery. Stay well away.

EXHIBITION
FERRAN ADRIA AND THE ART OF FOOD
Somerset House | By Steve Dinneen
Three Stars

IF there was one restaurant in the world that could carry the weight of an entire exhibition, it was El Bulli. What started life as a family-owned eatery on the outskirts of Roses in Catalonia became the figurehead of the avant garde food movement, a three Michelin-starred behemoth of gastronomy. Even when the trend for fiddly, hyperbolised food (part of El Bulli’s mission statement was that your dinner could be “poetry” and “magic”) came crashing down following the financial crisis, replaced by a back-to-basics, meat-and-two-veg mentality, few critics spoke out against it.

Ferran Adrià [its head chef until it closed in 2011] and the Art of Food at Somerset House is both a celebration and a biography of the restaurant. It begins with a video of its triumphant final night, before whisking you back to its conception in 1961.

Projection takes centre stage: on one wall a triptych of screens capture the heat and camaraderie of the kitchen, another shows the lonely drive up to the restaurant by night, others home in on the painstaking process of creating El Bulli’s individual dishes. A particularly impressive piece beams a chef sampling food onto a real-life dinner table; it’s a visual and aural bombardment. But for all the buzz, it feels a little too slick and a touch too clinical to capture the chaos and creativity of its subject. Some of the smaller exhibits verge towards esotericism: only the most ardent foodies or historians will take much interest in the cabinets packed with staffing rotas and blueprints.

The restaurant itself was a Mecca for foodies; this exhibition will at least give them somewhere to pay their respects.

EXHIBITION
MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN ART
Tate Modern | By Joseph Funnell
Four Stars

WHILE this week saw the end of Barack Obama’s first extended African tour, Tate Modern has ratified its own plans for cultural exchange by welcoming a visit from The Museum of Contemporary African Art. If this sounds like an embassy-endorsed PR initiative, think again. In actuality no such Museum exists, which is part of the point being made here by Benin born artist Meschac Gaba. Created between 1997-2002 in various locations across Europe, Gaba explains that this immersive installation piece is “not a model… it is only a question”. It is a provocation to reconsider the place of contemporary African art within western museums, as well as interrogate Africa’s geopolitical and cultural identities.

Twelve rooms recast the museum as a vibrant social-space, infused with African evocations. The “Draft Room” (the earliest phase of the project) explores Gaba’s fascination with value through an enigmatic display of shredded, decommissioned banknotes and gold pebbles. With no permanent Museum of Contemporary African Art building, in the “Architecture Room” we are asked to construct our own model with wooden blocks. In the “Games Room” we are encouraged to play with slide puzzles of African flags, disrupting the logic of national borders. In later weeks tarot readings (in the “Religion Room”) and artist-cooked meals (in the “Museum Restaurant”) will form part of the programme.

The conceptual stuff can be dense (or random) at points but an overriding, playful sense of humour means it is always engaging.

Gaba’s work is an attractive introduction to the Tate’s proposed programme for collecting contemporary African art, simultaneously acknowledging and challenging the institution’s previous shortcomings. Sadly the autobiographical elements of the installation inevitably run the risk of one man speaking for an entire continent. Hopefully the refreshing outlook will inspire the Tate to continue its relationship with African artists well into the future (or at least beyond its two-year proposed focus) and prevent such a singular story being told.